Often described as the greatest watch marketer of all time, Jean-Claude Biver—the man who catapulted Blancpain and Hublot into the luxury watchmaking spotlight and now serves as non-executive president of the LVMH Group Watch Division—is putting four rare Patek Philippe wristwatches from his private collection up for sale at Phillips’ Geneva watch auction on May 9.
“Jean-Claude is more than an industry titan, he has changed the face of watchmaking as we know it today,” said Aurel Bacs, senior consultant with Bacs & Russo, and Alex Ghotbi, Phillips’ head of watches for Continental Europe and the Middle East, in a statement. “His knowledge of classical watchmaking has allowed him to always be one step ahead and the four timepieces we have the honor of presenting in our Geneva auction are milestones in watchmaking history.”
A Patek Philippe c. 1948 ref. 1518 in pink gold leads the pack. Estimated at CHF 1.2 million to CHF 2.4 million (about $1.23 million to $2.46 million), the piece belongs to a reference—the first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch ever produced in a series—that only yielded 281 examples, the majority of them in yellow gold. Those produced in pink gold typically came with a silvered dial, making this version with a pink dial uber-rare. Biver was only the piece’s second owner.
Next is what Phillips describes as “an incredibly rare and well-preserved [Patek Philippe] reference 2499 second series from 1957.” Introduced in 1951, the model, which succeeded ref. 1518, boasted sportier round pushers and a larger 37.5 mm case. According to Phillips, “the second series reference 2499 is so rare that very few examples have graced the international auction market, and in fact only 20 examples in yellow gold with applied batons, like the present example, are known.” It’s expected to fetch between CHF 1 million and CHF 2 million.
A ref. 1579 from 1946 stands out because it’s only one of three vintage Patek Philippe chronographs cased in platinum. It’s estimated between CHF 800,000 and CHF 1.6 million.
Closing out the Patek Philippe quartet is a ref. 96HU Worldtime model from 1937, a precursor to the brand’s first series-production world-timer, which hit the market in 1939 as ref. 1415. The prototype piece, which is estimated at CHF 300,000–600,000, is sure to stoke a frenzy among collectors of Patek Philippe World Time watches both for its historical significance as well as its rarity.